Five-Point Inspection: 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan

Luke Vandezande
by Luke Vandezande

Can a minivan have a wild side? Groans and a few “never mind, we’ll take my car” responses leading up to a weekend camping trip didn’t bode well.

But three days, several camp fires and an unnecessarily generous load of gear and beer saw everyone agreeing that mom vans aren’t so bad after all.

Forget what style conscious contrarians will tell you. The Dodge Grand Caravan is a capable bachelormobile.

With what amounted to hundreds and hundreds of pounds in people, gear and beer, the car only lost one highway mpg, delivering 24. Official government estimates suggest the van should return 17 mpg in the city or 25 on the highway.

The heavily-loaded van was noticeably slower to accelerate, but still managed to make it up hills and onto the highway with reasonable speed.

There’s only one engine and transmission available: a six-speed automatic and 3.6-liter V6 with 283 hp and 260 lb-ft or torque. Those might sound like big numbers, but you’ll need every pony and foot-pound to make this sucker move when it’s loaded up with people and stuff.

Managing 24 mpg is good, but it isn’t spectacular either. For example, you can seat seven in a Toyota Highlander and achieve similar highway fuel economy.

It’s true that members of the crossover world can offer seat capacity and fuel economy to compete on paper. Everyday practicality is another story. Just ask anyone unlucky enough to ride in the “third row.” Most are miserable.

Pick a minivan, on the other hand, and you’ll be able to fit at least five friends (with the optional captains seats throughout) in comfort.

If cargo space is your specific need, that’s fine too. Chrysler’s “stow-n-go” system makes it a cinch to tuck those chairs flat to the floor.

With a starting MSRP of $19,995, it’s easy to see why families go for vans like kids choose fries before apple wedges.

They’re cheap, practical, easy to clean and can carry the gang without complaint.

The “American Value Package” is the least expensive option, and the version with Dodge’s starting price. You’ll be able to pick a “stow-n-go” third row bench with that, but the options are extremely limited.

Stepping up to the SE version makes the options list much more interesting. You’ll be able to choose a DVD rear seat entertainment system.

Things get even more interesting with the “Crew” trim level, which allows you to move from a DVD system to watching Blu-Ray discs.

Features including blind spot monitoring, rear parking assistance, rain sensing wipers and an auto-dimming rearview mirror are also available, but at a price. The “Safety Sphere Group” includes those options and cost s$1,400.

In fact, a generously equipped R/T model costs $36,120 when outfitted with a dual-screen entertainment system, better stereo, heated leather bucket seats and more.

So, you can buy a portable man cave to carry your buddies. It gives you reasonable gas mileage, outrageous storage space and even a decent sound system. It’s still a minivan, and that’s still a drawback.

Before the crossover craze, families would hardly think twice about buying one of these. That’s not true anymore, and the segment is shrinking as people pick more stylish crossovers.

Choices are dwindling too. Volkswagen’s van is gone and Kia will kill the Sedona after this year. Talk of either the Grand Caravan or the Chrysler Town & Country being killed in the name of consolidation is abound as well.

Considering a Grand Caravan for your next car purchase? You can find full specifications here and complete model pricing information here.

Luke Vandezande
Luke Vandezande

Luke is an energetic automotive journalist who spends his time covering industry news and crawling the internet for the latest breaking story. When he isn't in the office, Luke can be found obsessively browsing used car listings, drinking scotch at his favorite bar and dreaming of what to drive next, though the list grows a lot faster than his bank account. He's always on <A title="@lukevandezande on Twitter" href="http://twitter.com/lukevandezande">Twitter</A> looking for a good car conversation. Find Luke on <A title="@lukevandezande on Twitter" href="http://twitter.com/lukevandezande">Twitter</A> and <A title="Luke on Google+" href="http://plus.google.com/112531385961538774338?rel=author">Google+</A>.

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  • Bimmerphile Bimmerphile on Aug 08, 2013

    Sedona will be gone?...It was just spied a week ago or so. VW van is basically a Caravan anyway so that POS doesn't really count. This editor stinks...doesn't know much about the car world.

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